Daily Archives: May 2, 2017

Jackie Bavaro Natural Gas Utilities Raise the Bar on Safety

The May issue of American Gas Magazine titled, “Worker Safety: Yours, Mine and Ours,” focuses on the safety programs at three AGA member companies: Xcel Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Vectren, and how they are drawing on new research, insights and processes to strengthen safety at every level within their organizations.

Over the past nine years, Xcel Energy has made impressive strides when it comes to bolstering safety values within the company. Employee safety efforts have reduced Occupational Safety and Health Administration incidents by half—preventing injuries to approximately 700 employees. During this time, Xcel has changed the way it communicates with employees, emphasizing openness and providing as much information as possible in the aftermath of an incident. Xcel leadership points to honesty and transparency as fundamental elements for their safety success.

AmGASPG&E has adopted highly sophisticated, metric-driven tools and is setting a new standard when it comes to safety. The utility relies on its extensive legacy of data and procedures, which centers around four main principles: Creating a safety culture where employees follow all standards and regulations; understanding hazards to identify potential risks; managing risk by establishing procedures, training, emergency management and other aspects of operational readiness; and learning from experience by determining and correcting systemic and organizational failures.

Along with safety culture and asset management, process safety is one of the three pillars that comprise PG&E’s safety management system, titled, Gas Safety Excellence. The process safety pillar focuses on preventing and mitigating unintentional natural gas releases. PG&E’s systems also draw on international standards and research. In 2014, PG&E became the first utility to receive a double certification for asset management, and in 2015, it became the first company in the world to receive a certificate of compliance with the requirements of the American Petroleum Institute’s new standard, RP 1173.

In 2014, Vectren, conducted an employee survey to help the company understand its challenges when it came to enhancing safety culture. One outcome of this survey included restructuring its safety culture governance model. The model engages employees from the front line to the board of directors to improve in the development of its safety culture. A company-wide advisory team includes executives, directors and union officers, fostering engagement at the highest leadership levels. The tiered structure also includes guidance teams that address safety concerns across all operations, as well as local teams that address safety concerns at the operating center level. Some of the most important work takes place in the natural gas operating centers and local safety meetings. That’s where a holistic approach meets individual ownership.

Developing a safety culture means that all individuals within a company from directors to field workers—consider safety to be essential to their jobs. Employees take responsibility for monitoring their work activities and seeking better and safer ways to operate. Ongoing engagement and commitment to continuous improvement reinforces the message that safety never takes a back seat to other business metrics.  To read the entire article, click here.

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